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Robert RADECKE (1830-1911)
Piano Trio in A flat major, Op. 30 (1864) [29:02]
Three Fantasy Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 7 (1853) [12:23]
Piano Trio in B minor, Op. 33 (1853-68) [31:38]
Trio Fontane (Noëlle Grüebler (violin); Jonas Kreienbühl (cello); Andrea Wiesli (piano))
rec. 14-16 October 2014, Radiostudio Zürich
CPO 777 996-2 [73:16]

Robert Radecke's musical talents were about as multi-faceted as you're ever likely to encounter. Trained at the Leipzig Conservatory, he excelled as a violinist, pianist and organist. His father was also an organist and the young Radecke would substitute for him on occasion from the age of only ten. At the Conservatory Ignaz Moscheles taught him piano, and Ferdinand David violin. Some indication of the standard he achieved: for his final examination he performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and the Schumann Piano Concerto. Later he added teaching and conducting to his portfolio; he taught Bruno Walter at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. He was also a composer of some renown in his lifetime, but nowadays can be classed in that curious category of 'unsung'.

Radecke was twenty-one when he composed his A flat Piano Trio, but the work had to wait until 1864 for publication. It had an early performance in the distinguished company of Robert and Clara Schumann who, by all accounts, were impressed. Liszt also heard it at a later date and was equally enamoured. In four movements, it clearly shows the influence of Mendelssohn and Schumann. After a warm, lyrical opener, the second movement Scherzo is quite ear-catching, with some forcefully accented passages interjecting. There's no doubting that Radecke could come up with a 'good tune', and that's exactly what we get in the Andante sostenuto; its tender whisperings are delicately etched by the players. The finale is genial and smiling, with the Trio Fontane giving it their all with confidence and surety.

By 1869 the composer had become yet more assured. In the B minor Piano Trio he ramps up the rhetoric, producing a work of passionate fervour, emotional urgency and a greater sense of abandon. The first movement's lusty exuberance is raptly intense, but it’s the slow movement, with its slumberous aspect, that steals the show. Again, Radecke's gift for melodic invention invests this theme and variations with seductive allure. The Scherzo's quicksilver character precedes an energetic and commanding finale. It doesn't escape notice when listening to the trio that the composer seems to favour the piano. So, it's hardly surprising to discover that the work was dedicated to Anton Rubinstein.

Jonas Kreienbühl shows imagination and flair in the Three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 7 for cello and piano. Cast in a Schumannesque vein, the first two are tuneful and offer a surfeit of delights. The third, in contrast, is more gleeful and sprightly.

As far as I know, this is one of only two CDs of Radecke's music available at present. A recording of his orchestral music was released by CPO in 2016 and reviewed on these pages. All the trios on this latest offering are here receiving their recording premieres. I couldn't imagine more enthusiastic advocacy of these delightful scores than that which permeates these captivating performances by the Trio Fontana, who maintain a decorous balance throughout. CPO's splendid sound quality is another plus.

Stephen Greenbank


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